You snooze, you win! Turns out eating sleep smart will deliver enough zzz’s to boost your immune system and shrink your stress. “Sleep is one of the first things I ask patients about,” explains Dr. Donielle Wilson, N.D. naturopathic doctor, certified nutrition specialist and author of the upcoming, A Natural Guide to Better Sleep, “because it tells me about their health and how well they’re holding up under stress.”
But a good night’s sleep — generally defined as 7.5 to 9 hours of uninterrupted slumber per night — can be elusive. Sure, caffeine and alcohol are known sleep disrupters, but your daily eating habits could also be sabotaging your shut-eye. Besides perfecting a bedtime routine (see below), here are Wilson’s top 5 ways to fix sleep issues by giving your diet an upgrade:
- Balance your blood sugar level during the day, which affects your blood sugar balance while you sleep. If you eat large meals, infrequent meals and/or high sugar/carb meals (including bananas), especially near bedtime, you’re likely to wake up from blood sugar fluctuations.
- Reduce inflammation in your body, which for many people means avoiding gluten and dairy. Inflammation can travel to the nervous system and cause symptoms from anxiety to insomnia.
- Boost nutrient-dense foods high in sleep-friendly vitamins and minerals, including magnesium (nuts, seeds, fish, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate), B6 (salmon, beef, chicken, turkey, sweet potato, hazelnuts) and melatonin (cherries, pomegranate, cranberries, pineapple, oranges, tomatoes).
- Ditch your sugar-filled, late-night treat for a non-dairy protein powder–fueled smoothie to break those sweet cravings.
- Calm your nervous system with herbal teas like chamomile and lavender. Stress triggers a stress response involving stimulating cortisol and adrenaline, which leads to disrupted sleep patterns.
Dr. Doni’s Sleep Routine
- Set a reminder for your bedtime on your phone. You’re less likely to get distracted and more likely to get in bed on schedule.
- Turn on blue-light blocking apps in the evening for optimal melatonin production.
- Reduce noise and your activity level a couple hours before bedtime.
- Set up your bedroom environment, which ideally is uncluttered, completely dark and at an ideal temperature of around 65º.
- Reduce or eliminate electro-magnetic influences on sleep by placing electronic devices (like your phone) away from your bed and even in another room.
- Spray lavender or other calming essential oils on your pillow.